Allen was born Allen Macon Bolling (Later changed his name to Macon Bolling Allen) in Indiana in 1816. He grew up a free man. Macon learned to read and write on his on his own and eventually landed his first a job as a school teacher, where he further improved his reading and writing skills.
He was the first African American licensed to practice law in the United States and the first Black American Justice of the Peace. Macon Bolling Allen was accepted to the bar in 1844 in Portland, Maine. Shortly after being admitted as the first licensed Black American attorney to the bar in Boston (1845), he became the first Black American Justice of the Peace. After the American Civil War, Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he believed his legal skills could be more useful. In November 1872, he was elected judge of the Inferior Court of Charleston.
After passing the bar exam in Maine and earning his recommendation, Allen was declared a citizen of Maine and given his license to practice law on July 3, 1844. It was hard to find work in Maine because whites were unwilling to have a black man representing them in court. In 1845 Allen moved to Boston, Massachusetts where he met his wife Hannah Allen. They had five sons together. Allen passed the Massachusetts Bar Exam on May 5, 1845. (Shortly afterwards, he and Robert Morris opened the first black law office in the United States.)
In the book "Sarah's Long Walk the authors state that there is "no evidence that Allen became involved in the black leadership of the city". and that "There is no evidence that he and Morris ever met"(p. 6). Henry Bodwich, a white abolitionist, wrote the following regarding Allen: "there is a method of exclusion more terrible than merely a formal one... the gentleman alluded to would starve in that profession." Discouraged at his prospects in Boston, Allen wrote a letter to an abolitonist in New York City and relocated there.
Allen soon set his sights even higher; in 1848 he passed another rigorous exam to become Justice of the Peace for Middlesex County, Massachusetts. In addition to his license to practice law, he is believed to be the first black man to hold a judiciary position in the United States.
Allen moved to Charleston, South Carolina after the American Civil War to open a new legal practice. In 1873, he was appointed as a judge in the Inferior Court of Charleston and one year later was elected as probate judge for Charleston County, South Carolina.
After Reconstruction, Allen moved again, this time to Washington, D.C. where he worked as an attorney for the Land and Improvement Association. He continued to practice law until his death at age 78. Macon Bolling Allen was survived by his wife and one son, Arthur Allen.